Cincinnati Firefighter Chris Cotter of Ladder 29 signs a beam from the World Trade Center while it was in Cincinnati Sept. 29-30, 2007. Capt. Mike Battle is in the background. Click on a photo to be taken to a set with more photos from that day, including close-up photos of what the firefighters wrote on the beam.
Things are always better when they are in context.
Sept. 11, 2001 is a day I doubt any alive the world over will ever forget. As it was for each and every person, the experience was both personal and different. No wrong or right way to feel when the realization hit that something horribly wrong and sad had just occurred.
I had been living in Las Vegas for a little longer than three months, working on the internship that I had wanted so badly since I figured out I wanted to be a journalist. What a day to be a reporter. The breaking news story to literally end all other breaking news stories. And to be in Las Vegas – like so many things that hot, lonely summer – was totally surreal. It seemed I, by luck, was in one of the best places to be covering and seeing a story like that.
Take the makeshift memorial that sprung up almost immediately. Where? In front of a casino called…what else? New York, New York – a miniature theme park-like replica of the Real Deal, except this one had slot machines and gaming tables.
Speed up to this past weekend. Now I have been invited into the world and family of the fire service, even if for a glimpse. Like that little Cub Scout sitting at the Colerain Township Fire Department who jumped out of his skin when the alarm drop came, I have to admit even today being at a firehouse brings out feelings of my boyhood wonder and fascination and excitement. This is cool stuff, an honorable profession.
I get invited – asked to be there – (I’m still in awe of it) by a bunch of Cincinnati firefighters to photograph them while they visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. This time the context of 9/11 is totally different. I am flattered to be asked, to begin with. Granted, one of those firefighters has come to mean something very special to me, but still. It isn’t just that. For these men and women going to visit and touch this memorial appears to mean – on their faces and in their voices – something much different, much more powerful than I will ever be able to imagine.
I got that Sunday morning – even if I may never know exactly what it means to them. But now I know even better it was them there that September morning, that same attitude they take with them on every run they make.
I’d like to not forget that.
Cincinnati Fire Department Firehouse 14 members sign a beam from the World Trade Center that was destroyed Sept. 11, 2001. The signing was part of a traveling 9/11 memorial that was in Cincinnati Sept. 29-30, 2007. Left to right: Firefighter Ken “Jedi” O’Connell, Lt. Robert S. Boerger, Firefighter/Paramedic Melissa M. Brown. Walking behind the signers, Firefighter Lonnie Jones II. Aside from Brown, all assigned to Squad 14. Brown is assigned to Rescue 14.